Breakaway by Kat Spears is contemporary young adult fiction for an empathetic and perceptive reader.
In the wake of his younger sister's death, JasonBreakaway by Kat Spears is contemporary young adult fiction for an empathetic and perceptive reader.
In the wake of his younger sister's death, Jason Marshall is sad, angry and lost. As his single mother sinks into depression, Jaz should be able to rely on his best mates, but Mario is too busy getting high, Jordan is distracted by his new girlfriend, and Chick has his own problems.
Written in the first person, Jason doesn't really have insight into much of what motivates him, nor Spears other characters, so the underlying pathos that unravels his story has to be pieced together from the context and subtle leads in the narrative.
Struggling with his past and present, Jason is a sympathetic protagonist. Desperate to protect himself from further pain related to his father's desertion, his mother's emotional absence, and his sisters death, he retreats into himself, often taking refuge in an abrupt, defensive and sarcastic attitude.
While previously the linchpin for his group of best friends, Jason simply doesn't have the emotional strength to confront either Mario or Jordan, or cope with Chick's distress at the relationship drift. It's easier for him to just let it go and pretend it doesn't matter, or to blame circumstances outside his control, especially as his experience has taught him that everybody leaves.
Raine proves to be an excellent distraction for Jason. Convinced she couldn't be interested in him, he feels in control of their interactions, and most importantly to him, there is no risk of the rejection he fears. Raine in turn is good for Jason, calling him out on his worst behaviours and attitudes, and eventually offering him hope that things can be different.
An edgy, poignant coming of age novel exploring the themes of friendship, loss and love, Breakaway reflects the ordinary, often messy, complicated and dark, reality of adolescence. ...more
The Perfumer's Secret is Fiona McIntosh's seventh historical tale of romance. Set in the Provence region of France during World War 1, it's a story of The Perfumer's Secret is Fiona McIntosh's seventh historical tale of romance. Set in the Provence region of France during World War 1, it's a story of duty, secrets, love, family and perfume.
Dramatic and romantic, the plot of The Perfumer's Secret centers around Fleurette Delacroix. To secure the futures of Grasse's eminent perfumery dynasties, Fleurette is forced to wed Aimery De Lasset by her eldest brother, Henri. Though resigned to her fate, it's a relief when war is declared before the marriage is consummated and De Lasset rides off to join the French troops marching against the invasion of Germany. With the men, including Fleurette's brother away at war, it is left to her to ensure that both family business continue to flourish, a challenge she is more than capable of, for Fleurette has 'the nose', a rare ability to distinguish over 3000 scents. But when Fleurette's husband's estranged brother, Sebastien De Lasset, appears in Grasse, he carries a secret that could destroy everything both families have built, and break Fleurette's heart.
Fleurette is a lovely character, from the first pages she demonstrates spirit, courage and patience, and continues to mature over the course of the novel. Given the era she has few options when Henri insists she marries Aimery, but she doesn't let it dampen her hopes that she will find a place in the family business, and she copes admirably with the scandal and tragedy that befalls her. Aimery is an uncomplicated villain, arrogant, boorish and misogynistic, while Sebastien is a traditional heroic character. The romance that develops between Fleurette and Sebastien is easy to root for.
McIntosh's deftly weaves historical fact into her fiction. The story is meticulously researched, in terms of location, period and the specifics of the perfumery industry. McIntosh describes the study she undertook in the back of the book, spending time in Grasse, interviewing perfumers, visiting museums, and creating a signature scent. I don't wear perfume (my husband is allergic) but I still found learning about its production and scents interesting.
An easy, engaging and pleasant read, The Perfumer's Secret is a grand historical love story ideal for francophiles and romantics. ...more
Prick With a Fork is a funny, lighthearted expose of the food industry from the point of view of a disenchanted waitress turned restaurant critic.
Fro Prick With a Fork is a funny, lighthearted expose of the food industry from the point of view of a disenchanted waitress turned restaurant critic.
From almost killing a stripper with a wayward steak knife to staging go slow's to frustrate obnoxious customers, Larissa Dubecki claims she was the world's worst waitress, unashamedly sullen, insolent, disinterested, and often hungover, yet she spent over a decade waitering in everything from cyber cafe's to gastro pubs throughout Melbourne.
In Prick with a Fork, Dubecki details working with psychopathic chefs, hostile customers, drug addled colleagues and bartenders on the take and reveals insider secrets about illicit trysts in coolrooms, cash hidden under registers, and unpleasant uses for carrots. Her anecdotes are hilarious, though often slightly nauseating, you may never be able look your waiter in the eye again.
Salted with confessions and peppered with pathos, Prick with a Fork is a light and entertaining read. ...more
Swimming Home is the sixth novel by Mary-Rose MacColl, her previous book In Falling Snow was a favourite read of mine in 2012.
Exploring the themes of Swimming Home is the sixth novel by Mary-Rose MacColl, her previous book In Falling Snow was a favourite read of mine in 2012.
Exploring the themes of family, belonging, regret, and redemption, Swimming Home is a gracious and engaging novel.
When fifteen year old Catherine is orphaned, her aunt, Dr Louisa Quick, insists she abandons her idyllic island home in the Torres Strait and move with her to London. An independent and busy surgeon, Louisa is determined to provide her niece with the opportunity to become a well educated and successful young lady, but Catherine is miserable in her exclusive day school, missing the warmth of her Islander family, and the ocean. It's not until Catherine swims the width of the Thames on a dare and Louisa is approached by the enigmatic banker Manfred Lear Black, that she reconsiders her plans for her niece.
As a doctor, Louisa is intelligent and confident, but she struggles to relate to her niece and, uncomfortable with emotion, she makes some poor decisions when it comes to seeing to Catherine's well being. Though there is no malice intended, Louisa's actions have far reaching consequences and she suffers a crisis of conscience as the novel progresses. Louisa is not a particularly likeable character at times but I think MacColl portrays her well, and I was sympathetic to her flaws.
Catherine is resigned to her new life in London and wants to please her aunt, but she is lonely and homesick. Having spent almost everyday of her life swimming in the ocean, she jumps at the chance to swim to under Manfred Lear Black's patronage in New York. I felt for Catherine, whose loving and idyllic childhood came to such an abrupt end. She is remarkably stoic, but her longing is palpable and she obviously feels out of place, London contrasts sharply with her island home, as does the New York 'tanks' to her beloved ocean.
There are two subtle threads of mystery that run through the story, and a few surprises in the plot though Swimming Home progresses at a measured pace. What action there is stems largely from the Black's determination that Catherine will be the first woman to swim the breadth of the English Channel. MacColl weaves fiction with fact as she writes of Catherine's competitors, including Gertrude Ederle who was the first woman to swim the channel in 1926 and I enjoyed learning something about the birth of competitive swimming for women.
Set in an interesting period, with complex characters and a thoughtful story, Swimming Home is a finely written, poignant and pensive, but ultimately uplifting novel.
I generally choose not to rate memoirs for several reasons (but if I did, I'd give this 5 stars). Laugh out loud funny, poignant and a little crazy, re I generally choose not to rate memoirs for several reasons (but if I did, I'd give this 5 stars). Laugh out loud funny, poignant and a little crazy, read this and make yourself #FuriouslyHappy ...more
As a fan of The Big Bang Theory I couldn't pass up the chance to learn more about the endearing actor who plays Raj Koothrappali, actor Kunal Nayyar. As a fan of The Big Bang Theory I couldn't pass up the chance to learn more about the endearing actor who plays Raj Koothrappali, actor Kunal Nayyar.
Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven't Told You is a collection of stories and anecdotes from his life.
It begins with stories from his childhood in India spent dreaming of kissing Winnie from 'The Wonder Years' and playing badminton like a champ, before moving on to his time at college in the US, his interest in acting and landing the role of Raj on the The Big Bang Theory.
Kunar also writes about his family, especially his admiration for his father, his joy at marrying his wife, and his enjoyment and respect for the cultural traditions of his country. I was a little disappointed there wasn't more about his daily life as part of The Big Bang Theory cast though.
Kunal proves to be a sweet, genuine and self deprecating storyteller. Yes, My Accent is Real is a charming, funny and easy read.
Preschooled is a funny, light and sardonic debut novel from Anna Lefler.
Thrilled when her daughter gains a place at the exclusive Garden of Happiness Preschooled is a funny, light and sardonic debut novel from Anna Lefler.
Thrilled when her daughter gains a place at the exclusive Garden of Happiness preschool in Santa Monica, Justine is eager to impress the center's demanding owner, Margaret, but is thrown when she runs into the man who once shattered her heart.
Margaret expects nothing less than slavish obedience from the parents who pay handsomely for privilege of a preschool education at The Garden of Happiness. Margaret is always in control, but when her soon-to-be-ex-husband betrays her by threatening to take away everything she has built, her tantrum will rival any recalcitrant toddler's.
Ruben's wife has gone back to work so he can work on developing a television script while looking after their twins, but he's struggling until he finds inspiration among the committee mothers of the Garden of Happiness.
As the narrative alternates between Lefler's three main protagonists it gently mocks the absurdities of preschool admission competition and privileged pretension, while also lightheartedly addressing more universal issues such as parenting, marriage strife and work/life balance.
Preschooled is a quick and entertaining read that doesn't take itself too seriously, and won't expect you to either....more
Is This My Beautiful Life? is the memoir of Jessica Rowe, best known as an Australian television news presenter, and ambassador for the organisation b Is This My Beautiful Life? is the memoir of Jessica Rowe, best known as an Australian television news presenter, and ambassador for the organisation beyondblue.
Jessica Rowe writes candidly about her unsettled childhood as a result of her mother's bipolar disorder, her legal battle with network Ten, the hurtful criticism leveled at her by the public and media, the loss of her job at Channel Nine, and her struggle to conceive via IVF. But it is her battle with post natal depression after the birth of her first child with 60 minutes journalist Peter Overton, that is the focus of this memoir.
Challenged by breastfeeding, uncertain about her instincts as a mother, and exhausted by the demands of a newborn, Jessica found herself overwhelmed. She is honest and open about being unable to admit to her increasing distress. She writes of her fears of developing a mental illness like her mother, of her feelings of failure, and her reluctance to reach out for help, despite the support of her husband and family.
Offering encouragement, sympathy and comfort to women who may find themselves struggling with 'having it all', Is This My Beautiful Life? is an open and touching read, addressing an important subject that affects around 1 in 7 Australian women.
"When you're ass deep in lemons, you start looking for a shovel, not a pitcher and a cup of sugar."
Thirty year old Mattie Wallace is homeless, jobless "When you're ass deep in lemons, you start looking for a shovel, not a pitcher and a cup of sugar."
Thirty year old Mattie Wallace is homeless, jobless and pregnant, so an inheritance from the grandmother she never met is an unexpected life line. With her worldly belongings crammed into six plastic trash bags, Mattie drives from the Florida panhandle where she grew up with her alcoholic single mother, to small town Gandy, Oklahoma. Stranded in town when her 1978 Chevy Malibu gives out, Mattie settles into her grandmothers house while waiting for probate to clear, and curious, begins to ask questions about her mother the locals are reluctant to answer. Determined to learn why her mother fled her comfortable life, Mattie sets out to solve the mystery of her mother's past, and perhaps forge a new path for herself.
The Art of Crash Landing by debut author Melissa DeCarlo is a hilarious, audacious and surprisingly poignant story about loss, regret, secrets and forgiveness.
"I have ninja skills when it comes to screwing things up. It's like a superpower only lamer."
Mattie is a bold character; snarky, foul mouthed and irresponsible, her former stepfather, whom she affectionately calls Queeg (as in Captain Queeg from The Caine Mutiny), compares her to a natural disaster. She has a history of dating deadbeats, drinking too much, and doing the wrong thing. Damaged by her difficult childhood, Mattie knows she is a mess, but feels destined to repeat her mother's mistakes. I loved her irreverent attitude, and snarky wit, she is smarter than she gives herself credit for, and I really enjoyed the growth of character over the course of the novel. Solving the mystery of her mothers childhood is what lets Mattie reconcile with her past and begin to change the course of her future.
"I don't know what she's thinking, but I'm thinking about how fluid the border is between crazy and interesting, and hard it is to decide who belongs where."
Mattie is both helped, and hindered, by a cast of several quirky characters. Queeg, Mattie's stepfather who remains in Florida, is the most endearing. Then there is Luke, the paraplegic lawyer; Tawny, the teenage wannabe bad ass; Mattie's mothers former best friend Karleen, librarian 'Aunt' Fritter, JJ and the doggie Winstons.
"We are all more than the worst thing we have done"
I laughed often, entertained by the witty banter, eccentric characters and occasionally absurd situations in The Art of Crash Landing, but I was also intrigued by the mystery surrounding Mattie's mother's past, and touched by Mattie's struggle to escape her mother's shadow.
"Sometimes well begun never has a chance to finish, and every once in a while, a bad beginning turns out okay."
DeCarlo's style is similar to that of Cathy Lamb, an author I adore, and I'm looking forward to more from her. The Art of Crash Landing is a great read I'm happy to recommend....more
The Waiting Room is the debut fiction novel from Leah Kaminsky, a physician and best selling non fiction author.
Dina is a family doctor living in cont The Waiting Room is the debut fiction novel from Leah Kaminsky, a physician and best selling non fiction author.
Dina is a family doctor living in contemporary Israel with her husband and young son. Haifa is a world away from the Melbourne suburbs where Dina grew up, the only daughter of holocaust survivors. Eight months pregnant with her second child, Dina is exhausted and increasingly anxious. Her marriage is strained, she is tired of her patients needs, and she is terrified by an escalated terrorist threat in the city.
As Dina struggles to simply get through a single day, overwhelmed by traffic, a broken heel, demanding patients, and a promise to procure apples for her son, her behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. She finds no comfort in the casual assurances of her husband, nor the ghostly opinion of her long dead mother, who berates, cajoles and nags her daughter for her failings.
The sentiment of The Waiting Room is haunting and moving, relieved only by a rare glimpse of dark humour. The prose and dialogue is sharp and articulate. The pace builds until Dina's day reaches an explosive conclusion.
The Waiting Room is a short but powerful novel about survival, terror, love and death.
The Saddler Boys is another delightfully engaging rural romance from Australian author Fiona Palmer.
Natalie Wright is excited about taking up her firs The Saddler Boys is another delightfully engaging rural romance from Australian author Fiona Palmer.
Natalie Wright is excited about taking up her first teaching position in the remote farming community of Lake Biddy, and is determined to make the most of a years freedom from her parent's expectations. Welcomed by the locals despite her city ways Nat quickly falls in love with Lake Biddy and her adorable young charges, particularly shy and sweet Billy Saddler.
The development of the relationship between Natalie and single dad Drew Saddler is charming. It begins as a friendship sparked by Billy's admiration for Nat, and her interest in understanding what farming entails but the attraction between the two is quickly evident, even as they both try to deny it. The relationship is of course complicated by Natalie's engagement to Gary, whose character contrasts sharply with Drew's.
Additional drama develops as the government announces its intention to shut down Lake Biddy primary school, Billy's mother, who abandoned him as a newborn reappears demanding contact with her son, and Gary grows increasingly impatient with Natalie's desire for independence. These subplots all add a frisson of tension to the story, and depth by touching on topical issues such as regional school closures, drug abuse, and domestic violence.
While I really liked the wonderful characterisations of Natalie, Drew and Billy, I also loved the authentic feeling of community Palmer evokes in The Saddler Boys as the residents rally against the school closure and attend the raucous P&C fundraisers. She captures the generosity of country neighbours as Doris drops off Tupperware containers full of food, and friends trade babysitting duties during harvest and seeding.
Written with warmth, humour and spirit, The Saddler Boys is an lovely read about belonging, family, and love....more
Night Owls is a charming contemporary young adult novel from Jenn Bennet.
When aspiring medical illustrator Beatrix Adams meets a handsome teenage boy Night Owls is a charming contemporary young adult novel from Jenn Bennet.
When aspiring medical illustrator Beatrix Adams meets a handsome teenage boy while waiting for San Francisco's owl bus, she's surprised to learn he is responsible for the stunning word graffiti that has the city in an uproar. Busy putting together an entry for an art contest, and her summer job, Bex doesn't expect to see him again, but after Jack makes a grand gesture on her birthday, everything changes.
The romance between Jack and Beatrix is sweet and gentle. I liked the way Bennett developed their relationship, and even though the time-frame was fairly short, I believed in their progression. I enjoyed their banter during their first meetings and later, the support they offered each other. I was a little surprised by the sexual intimacy, but I think it was beautifully written.
The connection Bex and Jack make through their art is an important part of Night Owls. I love that Bex is an aspiring medical illustrator, it's such a unique choice and I really like the way Bennett worked the idea throughout the novel. Jack's graffiti art is intensely personal, and his motive very touching.
Though the romance between Bex and Jack is a major element of the story, Bennett also explores several important themes including divorce and mental illness. Bex and Jack's family's are very much a part of the story. Bex is close to her older brother Heath and her single mother but she is estranged from her father who left the family after an affair and is unsure when he reaches out to her. Jack's family situation is also complicated though in an entirely different, and heartbreaking way.
A witty, stirring, and poignant story about love, family, art and heart, Night Owls is beautifully written.
BEGIN, FLY, BELONG, JUMP, TRUST, BLOOM, CELEBRATE, ENDURE, RISE, LOVE
Starcrossed, by Carlo Caruso, is a contemporary romance novel mixed with suspense and magical realism.
Newly divorced and struggling with writer's blo Starcrossed, by Carlo Caruso, is a contemporary romance novel mixed with suspense and magical realism.
Newly divorced and struggling with writer's block, romance author Simona Gemella agrees to accompany her best friend, Nessie, to an astrological health and wellness retreat on Kangaroo Island. Simona is hoping to relax and find inspiration for her next book, but she is unsettled by the presence of handsome marine biologist Denham Cobalt, and a series of odd, and increasingly sinister, events that begin to plague the guests at the Sea Star Manor.
Written in the third person, most of the story is related through Simona, however the narrative is also shared by fellow guests at the Manor; Nessie, Raquel and Jordana, and a fifth perspective identified only as 'Him'.
Caruso gradually introduces the idea something is not quite right at the Manor, building the suspense slowly, advancing towards the showdown on the night of the 'Blood Moon'. But while the author neatly links the fantastical elements to the retreat's focus on astrology, I thought each of the women had a little too much going on externally, which is a distraction to the main thrust of the plot.
Nessie is hiding a secret while flirting with the Yoga instructor, heavily pregnant Raquel is worried about her partner's fidelity, and Jordana, accompanied by her husband, with his own drama, is struggling with infertility. Simona, on top of being newly divorced, suffering from writers block, and stressing over the release of her debut novel, also has to contend with the anticipation of meeting her writing 'idol', Astrid's revelations, and of course, her attraction to Denham.
Overall I thought Starcrossed was a quick and engaging read but needed a little more focus.
The Patterson Girls is Rachael Johns first foray into general contemporary fiction, though she doesn't stray far from her literary roots in rural roma The Patterson Girls is Rachael Johns first foray into general contemporary fiction, though she doesn't stray far from her literary roots in rural romance.
The titular Patterson girls, obstetrician Madeleine, wife and teacher Lucy, professional violinist Abigail, and Charlotte, the self described under achiever, have come home to spend Christmas with their recently widowed father. Keenly feeling their mothers absence, none of them are surprised when he announces his plan to sell the family motel and willingly agree to help clear out their mothers things. As the sisters rummage through their mother's keepsakes, reminiscing over old photos, fashion and jewelry, their curiosity is piqued when they discover a reference to a Patterson curse. Wheedling the details from the reluctant Aunt Mags, the particulars of the curse stuns all four sisters, and becomes a catalyst that turns the Patterson's sisters lives upside down.
Told from the shifting third person perspectives of Madeleine, Lucy, Abigail and Charlotte, The Patterson Girls is a story of sisters, secrets, loss and love.
Vivid characterisation brings the personalities of the sisters to life. Each has distinct strengths and flaws, and are beset by their own personal challenges, from unrequited love to infertility. While I identified most closely with Charlotte, I also found Madeleine, Lucy and Abigail to be interesting and well rounded characters and I really enjoyed Johns skillful portrayal of their sisterly dynamic.
The plot blends domestic drama, romance and a hint of mystery. While it's clear from the outset that all of the sisters are struggling in one way or another, the revelation about the Patterson curse piles on the pressure, and provokes much of the drama that follows, particularly for Madeleine, Lucy and Abigail. Charlie is finally finding her feet when a twist in the tale threatens to shatter the happiness she has forged for herself. Meanwhile, romance proves to be troublesome for all of them. While Charlie's feelings grow for an old friend and Abigail meets the man of her dreams, Lucy's marriage is floundering, and Madeleine's love life grows increasingly complicated.
A well crafted, entertaining, contemporary novel with strong characters and an engaging story, The Patterson Girls should appeal to fans of Monica McIerney and Marian Keys....more
With a narrative alternating between the past and the present, Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, tells With a narrative alternating between the past and the present, Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, tells the story of Belle Bartholomew and Sophie Matheson, two women haunted by the secrets of their pasts.
When her father commits suicide after losing his wealth during the post war depression, Belle Bartholomew is stunned to learn of the secrets he had been keeping. Eager to know more, she travels to Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance, a rundown hotel bequeathed to her by Martha Ambrose, and though Belle's questions put the locals offside, she is determined to solve the mystery of her birth.
Nearly sixty years later, reporter Sophie Matheson is enchanted by a vintage wedding dress donated to the Sweet Wattle Creek centenary celebrations. Intrigued by its mysterious provenance, Sophie begins to piece together the story of Belle and Charlie, and their connection to the old burnt out hotel on the town's fringe, unaware that her own past is catching up to her.
Both Belle and Sophie are appealing and sympathetic characters. Though their situations are very different they share a similar spirit, facing adversity with courage and determination.
Dobbie's portrayal of small town Australia during the 1930's is very well done. The community of Sweet Wattle Creek is still struggling with grief for their loved ones lost and injured in the Great War, and are worried about the impact of the post war depression, particularly as 'travellers' pass through their town. Dobbie skilfully communicates this tense atmosphere, and Belle's status as an outsider.
The mid 1980's is a fairly bland era by comparison but Dobbie is careful to ensure the period is reflected in the storyline. The local paper where Sophie works still uses a mechanical press to publish, archives are stored in the basement, and the single computer that saves data to floppy discs is still a novelty.
Most importantly, I thought the story was very well structured, both the historical and contemporary timelines complement each other well, and advance the plot as a whole. The pacing is good and the suspense builds nicely. There are some neat turns to the plot and I thought the conclusion was satisfying.
Sweet Wattle Creek is a well crafted and engaging tale combining mystery, drama and romance, and I'm happy to recommend it....more
Peta Jo's second novel, The Crushing Season, is an engaging story about friendship, family, love and loss.
Leah, May, Tate, Alex and Benny are the best Peta Jo's second novel, The Crushing Season, is an engaging story about friendship, family, love and loss.
Leah, May, Tate, Alex and Benny are the best of friends. They met in high school and more than fifteen years later, despite the separation wrought by their busy lives, remain close. When May is hit by a double crisis, her friends rally to support her, but none of them realise how badly she has been affected, until she does the unthinkable.
I became quite attached to all of the Crushing Season's protagonists, who are wonderfully developed characters. Tate is a feisty news editor, struggling to balance her commitment to her work and new motherhood. Leah runs her own successful restaurant, but is plagued with a history of bad relationships. Benny is a frustrated writer on the verge of giving up on his dreams. Laid back Alex is suddenly anxious about his future. May is the linchpin of the group, whose gentle and caring nature never hints at the dark secrets she holds close.
The dynamic between the friends is skilfully rendered. I enjoyed their rowdy reunion, their affectionate ribbing and bickering, and of course the way they supported each other in times of crisis. Even when their bond is complicated and strained, the connection is clear. In many ways, they remind me of my own close circle of friends whom I don't see as often as I would like.
Peta Jo's exploration of the books somber issues such as abuse, depression, suicide and guilt, are thoughtful and compassionate. Most importantly, the characters emotions are sincere, and their behaviour genuine. Though there is real sadness in The Crushing Season, there is also plenty of heart and humour, which often made me smile.
Well paced, with excellent characterisation and a strong plot, The Crushing Season is an affecting tale, both achingly poignant and truly heartwarming. ...more
A darkly imaginative and provocative tale, Menagerie introduces a new fantasy series from Rachel Vincent for an adult audience.
On her twenty fifth bir A darkly imaginative and provocative tale, Menagerie introduces a new fantasy series from Rachel Vincent for an adult audience.
On her twenty fifth birthday, Delilah Marlow's boyfriend presents her with tickets to Metzger's Menagerie, a travelling carnival, whose attractions include cryptids, creatures of legend and myth kept captive since the horror of The Reaping. Delilah has never been comfortable with society's treatment of cryptids, and she is horrified when she witnesses a keeper abuse a young female werewolf, but she is as stunned as everyone around her when her fury manifests physically.
"But if monsters could look like humans, and humans could look like monsters, how could anyone ever really be sure that the right people stood on the outside of all those cages?"
Vincent presents a stunning alternate reality in Menagerie where supernatural creatures are caged, enslaved and exploited by humans. Afforded no rights cryptids are feared and hated, blamed wholesale for an event known as The Reaping which killed hundreds of thousands of children decades earlier.
Delilah is utterly unaware she is anything but human until the night she plunges black talons into the skull of the abusive keeper, and is utterly terrified when she is arrested and then denied any recourse when the Sheriff sells her to Metzger's Menagerie. Vincent creates a powerful and disturbing portrait of Delilah's disenfranchisement as she is chained and caged, placed at the mercy of sadistic keepers who force her to become a sideshow attraction despite being unable to identify her 'type', alongside the circus's collection of trolls, ogres, mermaids, djinn, were creatures, and a rare minotaur.
Vincent spares little as she describes the conditions under which the cryptids live in Metzger's Menagerie. Abused, tortured, starved and drugged, their experiences are harrowing and for Delilah the dislocation is extreme. As she tries to hold onto her dignity, she displays courage, resilience and determination. Only one keeper shows her any kindness, Gallagher, who comes to believe that Delilah is the rarest of cryptid's, and the only one who can save them all.
Menagerie though is much more than just a thrilling tale of fantasy, it is a story that explores the concepts of humanity, and its capacity for savagery when threatened or fearful, injustice and vengeance. It reflects some of society's worst impulses such as the internment camps, acts of genocide, human trafficking and forcible slavery. This provocative edge to the story may be overlooked by some, but the parallels were clear to me.
With literally extraordinary characters, dazzling world building and a captivating plot, Menagerie is a sensational read. I can't wait for the story to continue....more
X is the 24th book in Sue Grafton's Alphabet series featuring private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. I've read all but three, and now there are just t X is the 24th book in Sue Grafton's Alphabet series featuring private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. I've read all but three, and now there are just two more books remaining.
X begins with Kinsey at a bit of a loose end, business is slow but she nevertheless soon finds herself caught up in three disparate mysteries.
The first involves finding the current address of a young man recently released from prison for his wealthy birth mother. The simple task complete, Kinsey doesn't give it a second thought until a local police detective alerts her that the hundred dollar notes she was paid with were registered as part of a blackmail case. Annoyed, Kinsey investigates, unraveling her clients lies.
The second relates to a pair of elderly new neighbours that raise Kinsey's hackles when they start to impose on Henry's generosity.
Meanwhile, Pete Wolinsky's widow asks Kinsey for her help in finding old financial documents requested by an IRS auditor. In amongst a box overflowing with paperwork, Kinsey discovers a padded mailer addressed to a priest and a coded list. Curious, Kinsey finds herself following up on the case, unprepared for the horrors she discovers.
W is for Wasted was a bit of a disappointment due to a rather lacklustre and longwinded plot, but X is much improved and more reminiscent of earlier books in the series. While there aren't any great surprises, the cases are interesting, and well thought out. I found the investigation relating to Pete the most compelling, there is real danger involved for both Kinsey and others.
The pace of X is measured, as all the books tend to be in this series. Set in the 1980's Kinsey's investigations are all about legwork in the pre internet, pre mobile phone era. Kinsey spends a lot of time browsing library archives, making phone calls and on stakeout.
Kinsey herself is not an excitable character, but she is a thoughtful and determined investigator that focuses on detail. I've always liked her but I was hoping for more personal development as the series approaches the end. Essentially Kinsey is a loner, Vera makes a brief appearance which I enjoyed and former romantic interests Dietz and Chaney rate a mention. But Henry and Rosie are really the only people she interacts with.
As a longtime fan of the series I was mostly satisfied by this installment and I'm eager to see how Grafton brings it to a close....more
The Replacement Wife by Rowena Wiseman has an unusual premise. When Luisa rekindles an old romance after a family BBQ she becomes determined to escape The Replacement Wife by Rowena Wiseman has an unusual premise. When Luisa rekindles an old romance after a family BBQ she becomes determined to escape her lacklustre marriage of twelve years. Desperate not to be branded as a homewrecker, Luisa concocts a plan to find her husband a replacement wife, allowing her to exit the marriage blamelessly. While fantasising about the new life she will build with Jarvis, Luisa pushes a procession of single women at her husband but when it seems she has finally found him the one, she's no longer sure she wants to be replaced after all.
Though I didn't like Luisa at all, I thought Wiseman's characterisation was very interesting. Luisa has a delusional self narrative, she believes herself unselfish for wanting to secure her husband's happiness before she leaves him, compassionate for selecting women who will a good mother to her son, moral because she refuses a physical relationship with Jarvis while still married. Luisa's skewed perspective is obvious to the reader, who can see exactly how flawed her thinking is, and the looming pitfall's of Luisa's grand plan.
'Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it' is the overriding theme of The Replacement Wife, however I struggled with the inconsistent tone of the novel. The first three quarters of the book or so reads mostly like a screwy romcom as Luisa attempts to fix up her husband with a handful of single women while swooning over the ridiculously effusive texts and emails from Jarvis, but then the tone shifts abruptly and The Replacement Wife becomes a serious morality tale, and though Luisa's fate is deserved, the overall imbalance is awkward.
I didn't dislike The Replacement Wife, I thought the unique premise was quite clever, and the writing of a good standard, but unfortunately the execution didn't quite work for me....more
"When I was twenty-one and most of my friends were Daddy-do-you-know-someone?-ing their way into fancy banks and PR firms, I was grieving the loss of "When I was twenty-one and most of my friends were Daddy-do-you-know-someone?-ing their way into fancy banks and PR firms, I was grieving the loss of my father, who had just died of cancer. That's how I found myself in the lobby of Crawford Funeral Home, one of several premier funeral homes in Manhattan, begging for a job one day."
After finding satisfaction in taking charge of her beloved father's funeral arrangements, young New York socialite Elizabeth Meyer joins the staff at Crawford Funeral Home despite the objections of family and friends. Though hired as a receptionist, Elizabeth's curiosity about all aspects of the business, including the mortuary room, and her ability to relate to Crawford's upscale clientele, soon sees her appointed as the Family Services Coordinator.
Unlike Caitlin Doughty's memoir Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, published earlier this year, Meyer's memoir has no real agenda, though she is sincere in her belief that mourners should have the opportunity to create a meaningful funeral experience that honours their loved one.
Good Mourning has a largely lighthearted tone as Meyer shares her experiences at Crawford. From body fluids leaking all over her Gucci shoes, to missing brains, to making arrangements for dozens of Lamborghini's to line Madison Avenue. She is discrete as she describes the excesses of unnamed celebrity and society funerals, respectful as she tells of families grief, and is matter of fact about the more confronting aspects of the funeral industry.
Eventually tiring of the infighting and corporate ethos plaguing Crawford, Meyer left after a few years, and after further study started her own private consulting firm, helping people to navigate the funeral industry.
Authored with the assistance of freelance writer Caitlin Moscatello, Good Mourning is written in a conversational style. Elizabeth comes across charmingly enthusiastic, and genuinely passionate about her chosen career. Meyer's instinct for dealing with grieving families is remarkably mature, but her youth is apparent in what she shares of personal life. She has a difficult relationship with her mother, doesn't understand the hostility directed at her by her colleagues, and takes her wealth and privilege for granted.
Good Mourning is a quick, interesting and entertaining read, and Elizabeth Meyer shares her story with honesty, humour, and compassion.
A dark and disturbing tale of vengeance and violence, Woman of the Dead is the first novel by Bernhard Aichner to feature Blum, mother, mortician and A dark and disturbing tale of vengeance and violence, Woman of the Dead is the first novel by Bernhard Aichner to feature Blum, mother, mortician and murderer.
When Blum's beloved husband is killed in a hit and run she is nearly destroyed until she learns that he was deliberately targeted. The photographer, the cook, the priest, the huntsman, and the clown - these are the men responsible, and Blum is going to make them pay.
Woman Of the Dead has one of the most memorable character introductions I've ever read. The story opens with a during a defining moment in Blum's life before leaping forward eight years to place us in the present. Blum is the devoted wife of Mark, a police detective, the doting mother of their two young daughters, and the owner of a successful funeral business. She is both hero and anti-hero in this story, grieving widow and ruthless killer.
There is raw and visceral emotion in The Woman of the Dead. The pain and numbness of Blum's grief and the horror of the abuse Danya experienced at the hands of the mysterious cabal. There is also grisly and often explicit violence, this isn't a story for the squeamish.
The plot is quite straight forward, perhaps stretched a little thin at times. It's a fast paced story that builds suspense, though astute readers shouldn't have any problems guessing the identity of the last man standing.
Woman of the Dead is an unusual story, with a rather extraordinary protagonist. I'm curious to see how the series develops....more
In the latest addition to the Private series, James Patterson teams with Aussie crime author Kathryn Fox, introducing the reader to Craig Gisto, and h In the latest addition to the Private series, James Patterson teams with Aussie crime author Kathryn Fox, introducing the reader to Craig Gisto, and his staff, in the Private Sydney agency who have two cases to investigate in this crime thriller novel.
The first involves a surrogacy scam, a murdered woman and a missing baby. Gisto's agency is accused of negligence when a couple hires Private to run a background check on a woman who has volunteered to be their surrogate. Within hours of turning over the report, the woman is murdered, an 8 week old baby in her care abducted, and the identities of the couple prove to be false. Gisto and his team have few leads and work hard to unravel the scam, determined to find the missing infant.
The second case involves the missing CEO of a billion dollar company. Stonewalled by the man's business partner, Gisto begins to suspect large scale fraud is the issue. However it soon becomes clear that whatever Eric Moss has done, he has made some dangerous enemies. Despite attempts at intimidation, Gisto refuses to back off, especially when threats are made against the missing man's daughter.
Short chapters, an economy of words, and a sense of immediacy keeps the pace moving quickly. The plot is well crafted and not entirely predictable, with some smaller subplots that fill out the pages. Studded with action, there is also a touch of romance. You don't get much more than a general sense of the characters, but it is enough to satisfy.
The Australian setting, which moves from Sydney city to the Blue Mountains, should appeal to Patterson's international and local fans.
Private Sydney was exactly what I expected, a quick, easy, entertaining read....more
Inspired by the Grimm Brothers fairytales, most notably ‘The Singing, Springing Lark', a variant of Beauty and the Beast, Kate Forsyth weaves a compel Inspired by the Grimm Brothers fairytales, most notably ‘The Singing, Springing Lark', a variant of Beauty and the Beast, Kate Forsyth weaves a compelling tale of romance, war, heartbreak and courage in The Beast's Garden.
The Beast's Garden opens in 1938 as Hitler begins to persecute the Jewish population of Berlin. Nineteen year old songstress Ava Falkenhorst is stunned by the violence, and horrified when close family friends, the Feidlers are targeted simply for being Jewish. When Ava's childhood friend Rupert is transported to Buchenwald, and her father threatened with arrest, Ava permits the attentions of Leo von Lowenstein, a high ranking handsome Nazi officer torn between duty and honour. Though their marriage secures Ava's father's safety, Ava, who is determined to help the Feidlers and others like them, can't trust that Leo will not betray her and hides her subversive activities, unaware that her husband is also working against the regime he serves.
With authentic and compelling detail Forsyth explores life under the Nazi regime in the lead up and during World War Two. The terrible suffering of the Jewish population and their attempts to defy Hitler are exhaustively documented, but rarely is mention made of the Germans who rebelled against the Gestapo in both small and significant ways. Forsyth acknowledges the efforts of the German people who risked their own lives to mitigate the attrition, and real historical figures, such as Admiral Canaris, and Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen of the Red Orchestra Resistance, who actively worked to disrupt Hitler's rule.
Not that Forsyth shies away from illustrating the experience of Nazi rule for the Jewish. Threads of the story illustrate the harrowing experiences of Rupert, imprisoned in Buchenwald, a concentration camp ruled by Karl-Otto Koch and his sadistic wife known as The Witch of Buchenwald; and life for Rupert's sister, Jutta, in Berlin as she becomes involved in the resistance and struggles to stay one step ahead of the SS.
It is the relationship between Ava and Leo that echoes the fairytales we are familiar with. Ava, the innocent, brave beauty, Leo the 'Beast'; an unlikely love, besieged by tragedy, that blooms, like the roses that feature in their courtship. Rich characterisation ensures neither Ava nor Leo are mere cliches, and though there is a happy ending, it is hard won.
Skillfully crafted, The Beast's Garden is another magnificent historical novel seamlessly melding truth and fiction, from Kate Forsyth. A wonderful tale of daring and courage, of struggle and survival, of love and loyalt, this is a 'must read'.
What My Daughters Taught Me is a heart warming memoir by Joseph Wakim who found himself the sole parent of his three young daughters when his beloved What My Daughters Taught Me is a heart warming memoir by Joseph Wakim who found himself the sole parent of his three young daughters when his beloved wife, Nadia, passed away after a short battle with cancer.
'Amazing' Grace, 'Ma Belle' Michelle and Joy 'to the World', each named after song's favoured by Joseph and his wife were just eleven, nine and four when they lost their mother. Despite his overwhelming grief at losing his soul mate, Joseph vowed to be both father and mother to their girls.
With humour, honesty and faith derived from his Maronite church (he is a Muslim Christian), Joseph learnt to cook, use conditioner on tangles, braid hair, referee bathroom wars, peg out laundry at the speed of light, and gracefully submit to his daughters fashion stylings. He nurtured his daughters' love of dance and music (starting a band called Heartbeats), helped them study, and taught them to drive.
Sharing the details of his courtship with his wife, and her painful demise, as well as providing a glimpse into his past as part of a large Lebanese immigrant family, Joseph writes of grief, love, family and life's roller-coaster.
To ensure financial stability for his family, Joseph moved from social work, having been responsible for the Streetwork project in Adelaide and having been awarded an Order of Australia medal in 2001, into business. He founded the Australian Arabic Council, was once the former Victorian Multicultural Affairs Commissioner, but now writes regular opinion pieces about human rights issues. He authored Sorry We Have No Space, a finalist for the Australian Christian Book of the Year, in 2013 about racism experienced by Arabs in Australian.
However this book is not about his professional achievements but about his greatest personal accomplishment - raising his daughters with love, wisdom and faith. It has been twelve years since Joseph lost his wife, and their family is thriving. His daughters are beginning to establish their independence, and Joseph is proud of the role he played in shaping the women they have become.
*please note I choose not to rate memoirs* ...more